This was our last vacation pre-lock down. I took it for granted at the time. We organised it very casually and at the last minute. Little did I realise how things would change. How I miss that freedom now.
It was a Sunday evening in February. Walking back from the Black Horse was as gruesome as it had been for four weeks. Within an hour, we had booked to fly out to Tenerife the following Wednesday. We knew some friends of ours were due to arrive in Checkin Apartments Atlantida in Los Cristianos on the Saturday so, that is where we booked in.
We paid £55 a night booking via and it’s worth checking prices thoroughly as our friends paid £75 a night for an identical apartment with another company. The apartments are self-catering, so there’s the usual; two ring hob, microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge; all basic, but absolutely fine. Los Cristianos has a lot of excellent restaurants, and we weren’t planning on eating in, but you could if you wanted to. The rooms are nice, with just enough wardrobe space. The bathroom and shower were good, though we had an issue with a drain-type smell on some days. At £55 a night I wasn’t complaining.
Outside the rooms the complex is okay, but looks a tad jaded, and some areas could do with a bit of cash spending on them. Frankly, with good beaches nearby, I don’t see why you’d want to stay on the site. There are several swimming pools (I think they heated only one) but the sunbeds were uncomfortable and there weren’t enough of them. My wife checked them all out, but we only stayed around one and I felt a little ‘hemmed in’ by the buildings. It was like sunbathing half naked on a housing estate. It felt inappropriate.
I’d say the main focus of Checkin Apartments is young families and they cater for them well. There’s mini golf and more entertainments in the ‘Cave Bar’ where the site restaurant is also situated. The restaurant looked like a motorway café. I think they tried to cater for too many conflicting tastes here; a bar, pool tables, pink plastic Wendy House, and tatty furniture. On the mercifully rare occasions we popped in, the most dreadful acts were ‘performing’. If you imagine ‘sub-Phoenix Nights’ you’re in the right ball-park. As a consequence, it actually was entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons. I felt embarrassed if the artiste caught me laughing at them. They charge €3 a pint, and they should address this as it’s €1.50 almost everywhere else in Los Cristianos.
That was all a bit negative, but to balance that, I must say that Checkin Apartments is good, and very reasonably priced, if you just sleep there and go elsewhere the rest of the time. The reception staff were brilliant, most helpful when we wanted to set up a surprise welcome for our friends when they arrived on the Saturday. We didn’t know what flight they were on and the check-in staff were on permanent look out for us. In the end, we had to wait 8 hours and the big ‘huzzah!’ was upended when they just threw their bags in the room and shot off into town. We had to chase them down the street shouting ‘Surprise! Surprise!’
The natural temptation on leaving Checkin Apartments would be to turn left out of the entrance and then right down the main street to the seafront and the town centre. That’s where most bars and restaurants are. However, if you turn right and walk up the slope, turning right again at the top, you end up in a pleasant, slightly quieter area, kind of round the back of the town (it’s quite a big town tbh). There are a couple of places to eat and drink, which we really liked.
El Brasero is a medium sized place with a wide range of meat dishes. It has a mainly Spanish menu though our hard working waiter, and owner, was Italian. Prices were reasonable, we paid around €120 for four of us including two courses, beer and a few bottles of wine. We didn’t scrimp, Bacchus himself would have applauded.
Just around the corner was another excellent restaurant and bar, Taberna Vasca. It was popular with locals and all the staff were Spanish except for our waiter who was Venezuelan. We had a drink there every night; the vibe was spot on; mellow, cosy, warm… Ah! I’m back there! Anyway, the food was excellent. If you want to go it would be wise to book as it can get busy. There were a few other bars around and inevitably quite a few of the ‘The Ship Inn’, ‘The Rose and Crown’, ‘The Brexit and Bulldog’ variety. We went in a couple to watch the football and they’re okay, but I don’t see the point of going abroad to drink in a pub that’s a copy of one back home.
I have to mention one more place to eat. The awesome, and strangely named, ‘100 Pizza Social Club’. It’s a brilliant pizza place in the centre of town. Pizzas range in price from €8 – 14 a pop depending on the number of toppings. There’s a basic pizza menu and a specials one on a different page which can be easy to miss. The calzone pizzas are comically large, the size of a rugby ball. The staff are Italian, as are a lot of the customers, which has to be a good indicator of the quality. We paid less than €40 for 2 pizzas, 1 beer and 3 large glasses of wine.
Oh, go on, one more great place to eat, Sal-Fina. It’s set out on a side street, very small and you’d be wise to book. The owner is passionate about the food they serve and it’s very good. The place is prosaic and posh all in one go. You’re eating on the pavement (not off it) but the menu is class.
There are a few beaches to slob out on. The most southerly, and nearest the Checkin Apartments, Playa de Los Cristianos is okay but faces the port, which rather spoils the views. Playa de Las Vistas is a ten-minute walk further up and much nicer. Sun beds were €12 on the former, €14 on the latter for two, including an umbrella. The sea is more appealing at Playa de Las Vistas, though there’s little point in taking snorkelling equipment. There are probably some fish to see near the rocks that have been plonked down to protect the sand. I didn’t bother going to look, but the water was lovely, cool and clear.
There’s plenty of shops, bars and restaurants close by and one fabulous place we found called McDonalds. It sold mainly burgers and things called ‘fries’. They taste nice when you eat them, but twenty minutes later, you have stomach cramps and feel very thirsty. Your body is saying, ‘Hey, brain! There’s something in here that really shouldn’t be’. The nausea lasts a mere three hours and then you can go back and repeat the experience at your leisure. It’s worth it, just to enjoy the smell of burnt cooking oil and to recline on the red plastic furniture.
Los Cristianos old town dates… ooh… as far back as the 1960s (yes, that far) and it has expanded ever since. The buildings are quite crowded in near the sea front but more spacious as you go back from the coast. It does have some history and you spend three minutes of your time reading up on it. It was a port in the 16th century, but little more than a village. There are no remains to whet your appetite.
There were two noteworthy events during the week. Firstly, there was a case of coronavirus in Costa Adeje Palace hotel a few miles north of us. The hotel was quarantined, and it seems strange to recall that it felt kind of ‘distant’ in February, as if it couldn’t affect us. On the way home, many people had worn facemasks in the airport and on the plane. Back then, it seemed like a ‘China thing’ or a ‘North Italy’ thing. Of course, the UK has now surpassed Italy’s total and, in fact, we probably have the second largest number of fatalities in the world. I could not have dreamt this in my worst nightmare back in February. We thought it was just a nasty flu virus; how wrong we were.
The second event was a massive sandstorm, a present from the Sahara Desert. It shut the airports, the sky went orange, and gale force winds ripped trees up. When we walked into town, the beach blew up the hill to meet us. There’s a bit of video footage of it in the attached clip. It was quite dramatic, though it didn’t stop us from doing anything. In retrospect, perhaps it should have done.
Also, in the video clip is a little game I’ve been playing for some years now. It’s a kind of ‘guess where I am?’ thing. Initially designed to entertain my chum Mick Murphy, it is, for reasons I have quite forgotten, narrated in bad Italian. I do a little video clip and you get three choices. The challenge, and what a challenge it is, is to guess the correct answer. I’ve done a few of these now. I think they could go viral if I unleashed them on the public.
There are things to do on Tenerife generally, and a trip up Mount Teide has to be the star of the show. It’s an active volcano, and a splendid sight flying in. I went up it with my mates in beach buggies 40 years ago and we had a splendid day. It has quite a range of flora and a rainforest to enjoy. At 3718 metres high, you’ll notice the drop in available oxygen at the top. But we didn’t do any of that stuff. We ate, we drank, we swam, we sunbathed, we read books, we laughed, we sang, we danced, we’d do it all again.
Should you go?
Places like Los Cristianos know what they are about. They offer sun, sea, sand, food and drinkies while it’s winter in Europe. I love that. Spank me. I would go to Los Cristianos again, but the price would have to be right, by which I mean I’d want to feel I’d got a bargain. If it was any time out of the winter season, I’d pick southern Spain (for example Malaga, or Nerja) or the Balearics. They’re nearer and priced similarly. There’s also more culture, more history, and more ‘Spanishness’ in these places and more to do.
If you liked my blog, there’s every possibility that you’ll like the comic novel I’ve recently published. It made me titter! As much as I enjoyed teaching, and respect those who do the job, there’s plenty to laugh at. I spent 30 years giggling 😊. It’s a bargain at £2.21 for the Kindle! Click on the image for the Amazon link.